Sig Stats: Slot Receivers

Gordon McGuinness looks back at the top and bottom of our slot receiver Signature Stats.

| 3 years ago

Sig Stats: Slot Receivers

2013-SlotWRsThis week at PFF, we’re continuing to reach out to NFL fans with some of our unique Signature Stat-based articles. These signatures are somewhere between your everyday stats and our PFF grades, provided a greater look at player performance than regular stats can provide.

Last week we looked at The PFF Drop Rate for Wide Receivers, Tight Ends and Running Backs. This week we’re casting our eye over how players perform in the slot, starting with wide receivers.

A role which had become much more prominent in recent years, slot receivers come in all shapes and sizes, with different teams taking various approaches to get their playmakers in space. How important do some teams value having a strong presence in the slot these days?

Well, you only need to look at the two teams who battled in the Super Bowl, where the Denver Broncos went out and got Wes Welker for Peyton Manning, while the eventual champions paid a hefty haul to add Percy Harvin. The move might not have paid off initially, with Harvin struggling to stay on the field, but he played a more prominent role in the Super Bowl, and ran 11 of his 14 routes out of the slot in the big game.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the best, and worst, performers out of the slot in 2013. To qualify, a wide receiver needed to have run at least 200 routes from the slot.

Yards Per Route Run

The Top Five

Rank Name Team Routes Run Receptions Yards YPPR
1  Anquan Boldin SF 221 40 637 2.88
2  Vincent Jackson TB 211 38 514 2.44
3  T.Y. Hilton IND 235 46 516 2.20
4  Brandon Marshall CHI 266 39 566 2.13
5  Marques Colston NO 300 44 590 1.97

After being acquired for just a sixth round pick from the Baltimore Ravens last March, Anquan Boldin followed up his stunning 2012 postseason with the most productive year of any wide receiver from the slot. His importance to the San Francisco offense was increased with fellow wide receiver Michael Crabtree missing most of the year through injury but Boldin produced in the way he always has done by going up and winning balls in the air and managing to find space to get open despite not having the speed to blow by defensive backs.

The common theme amongst our Top 5 here is size, with T.Y. Hilton the only player smaller than 6-foot-1. The 5-foot-9 player became Andrew Luck’s favorite target for the Indianapolis Colts last year with Reggie Wayne missing most of the year through injury, leading to a whopping 219 yards from the slot in the wild card playoff win over the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bottom Five

Rank Name Team Routes Run Receptions Yards YPPR
29  Mohamed Sanu CIN 241 24 219 0.91
30  Andre Roberts ARZ 205 18 176 0.86
31  Tavon Austin SL 245 30 207 0.84
32  Davone Bess CLV 336 27 235 0.70
33  Keshawn Martin HST 206 14 127 0.62

While some players dominated from the slot, other players failed to make much impact, with Houston’s Keshawn Martin racking up just 127 yards from the slot from 206 routes run. That lead to a league low 0.62 Yards Per Route Run, with Cleveland’s much maligned Davone Bess not fairing much better. Tavon Austin was a player the Rams targeted early in the draft in a bid to add a dynamic playmaker to their offense but, while there were flashes of skill in his rookie campaign, the overall production was lacking.

Drop Rate

The Top Five

Rank Name Team Targets Receptions Drops Drop Rate
1  Marques Colston NO 58 44 1 2.22
2  Victor Cruz NYG 68 43 1 2.27
3  Anquan Boldin SF 59 40 1 2.44
4  Rishard Matthews MIA 57 37 1 2.63
5  Doug Baldwin SEA 50 33 1 2.94

In a year that saw him fifth amongst receivers in terms of YPRR from the slot, Marques Colston also had the safest pair of hands from a wide receiver from the slot, dropping just one of the 44 catchable passes thrown his way in the regular season. Boldin also features again here, with Victor Cruz also showing a safe pair of hands. Rishard Matthews and Doug Baldwin are two players who you might not expect to see here, but both were as reliable as could be for their quarterbacks, dropping just one pass each.

The Bottom Five

Rank Name Team Targets Receptions Drops Drop Rate
29 Santana Moss WAS 58 34 6 15.00
30 Brandon Marshall CHI 61 39 7 15.22
31 Danny Amendola NE 67 42 8 16.00
32 Steve Johnson BUF 69 41 8 16.33
33 Davone Bess CLV 57 27 11 28.95

It really wasn’t Bess’ year was it? Dropping an incredible 11 of the 38 catchable passes thrown his way, he failed to impress for the Browns throughout his time in Cleveland. Brandon Marshall also features here after we highlighted his strong position in terms of YPRR earlier showing that, as good as he was in 2013, he could have been even better if he’d done a better job of hanging on to the ball.

While both of these signature stats give a clearer look at how wide receivers have performed in the slot, nothing quite compares to our PFF grades. The grades take into account how difficult a catch it was to make, with not every drop equally as bad, as well as crediting a receiver for his work after the catch. The good news, is that a PFF membership gives you access to both the grades, and our various signature stats, coming in at just $26.99 for a year’s membership.


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| Analyst, Lead Special Teams Analyst

Gordon has worked at PFF since 2011, and now heads up the company’s special teams analysis processes. His work in-season focuses on college football, while he is also heavily involved in PFF’s NFL draft coverage.

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